Neath Port Talbot County Borough is set to be the first in Wales to have a Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy.
A draft strategy has been published for consultation and it sets out how Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, ABMU Health Board and other key partners will continue to work together to tackle these issues.
The Neath Port Talbot strategy encompasses domestic violence, forced marriage, sexual violence, female genital mutilation and honour based violence. The document recognises that the majority of victims are female, but acknowledges that both victims and perpetrators can be male or female.
The strategy meets the requirement for the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, focussing on the areas of prevention, protection and the provision of support.
An event was held at Margam Orangery to mark the start of the consultation. Council Leader Cllr. Ali Thomas OBE opened the event. During the morning attendees, including elected members, partners and support providers heard speeches from Cllr. Alan Lockyer Chair of the NPT Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership and Eleri Butler, CEO of Welsh Women's Aid. They also saw a presentation by Port Talbot and Afan Women's Aid and Calan's 'BRAVE' early intervention project.
Councillor Thomas said:
"Based on national figures, the number of Neath Port Talbot residents who are experiencing some form of Domestic Abuse could be more than 18,000. These acts of violence and abuse can have a devastating and long lasting impact on victims and those close to them.
"The Council is committed to working with our partners to build on and improve the arrangements for the prevention, protection and support of victims and survivors of these crimes."
ABMU Director of Nursing and Patient Experience, Professor Rory Farrelly, said the health board was committed to working with local authorities, third sector specialist services and all relevant agencies to provide help and support to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Professor Farrelly said the health board welcomed its joint involvement in developing the draft strategy and looked forward to the consultation:
"ABMU is an early adopter of Ask and Act, which will be rolled out across Wales over the next five years. This is a targeted enquiry process whereby healthcare professionals identify signs a patient may be a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence and ask the patient if they experience this. If it is occurring, appropriate referral to specialist services is made for the patient to receive help and support."
Professor Farrelly said one such patient later said her life had been transformed as she now felt safe in her home. He added:
"This is a true testament to the partnership approach of all agencies in tackling the serious public health issue of domestic abuse and sexual violence."
The consultation is now open and will end on 7th June 2017. Specific groups have been invited to give their views, but members of the public are also being encouraged to respond. A copy of the draft strategy and feedback form can be found online at www.npt.gov.uk/haveyoursay. Paper copies will be available at Neath and Port Talbot Civic Centres and Pontardawe Hub.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 8010 800 or visit the Domestic Abuse One Stop at 17 Victoria Gardens, Neath.